The Neo Geo Pocket Color debuted in the United States on June 1, 1999 at the retail price of $69.95. Seven months earlier, in November 1998, Nintendo had released its successor to its world renown Game Boy system with Game Boy Color.
SNK (Shin-Nihon Kikaku) first released the monochrome Neo Geo Pocket on October 28, 1998 in Japan. The company rethought its strategy when it came to releasing the system in the United States. SNK made it available to American consumers only with a full color display, most likely in an attempt to keep pace with Nintendo.
At the time of the US launch, 12 game titles were available at a cost between $24.95 to 34.95. The six different case styles of Neo Geo Pocket Color available at launch, were: platinum blue, platinum silver, anthracite, aqua blue, stone blue and clear. Instead of the standard practice of selling units through retail outlets, SNK made Neo Geo Pocket Color available exclusively through its Internet web site on its June 1, 1999 launch.
The layout for the Neo Geo Pocket Color is the same as its monochrome counterpart, but unlike Nintendo's Game Boy, SNK's portable system is held horizontally when played. An eight-position thumb controller (also known as a D-pad) that utilizes microswitch technology, is located on the left side of the unit, and the A and B action buttons are located on the opposite side of the screen to the right. The 2.6-inch LCD TFT screen is capable of simultaneously displaying 146 colors out of a palette of 4096.
With two AA alkaline dry cell batteries, the unit is capable of providing approximately 40 hours of nonstop continuous play. The Neo Geo Pocket Color, like the Game Boy, does not provide a backlit screen - which undoubtedly aids the system in achieving its excellent battery economy. Consequently, games must be played in the vicinity of an outside light source. The unit weighs approximately 145 grams or 195 with batteries.
Also like the Neo Geo Pocket, the color unit includes several built-in features which are accessible through the Pocket Menu such as a world clock (which tells users the time in major cities around the globe), a calendar, a horoscope generator (which generates astrological forecasts when users enter their birth dates) and an alarm. The Pocket Menu can be accessed when the unit is activated with no game cartridge inserted.
Both game data and Pocket Menu settings can both be stored within the system. The Neo Geo Pocket Color's 16 KB system memory is backed up by a lithium battery (the type found in wristwatches) and comes included with the system.
The unit has three external outlets: a 5-pin connector for a link cable, a stereo headphone jack and an AC adapter plug. The system's link outlet - or external extensions connector, (located on the upper right of the unit) is also designed for interaction with Dreamcast console. This ability to communicate with Dreamcast betters Sega's own handheld VMU (Visual Memory Unit). Unlike the Neo Geo Pocket Color, the VMU is only capable of displaying games in black and white.
As with the Game Boy Color, Neo Geo Pocket Color is backwards compatible and will play the original monochrome cartridges (that were released in Japan). The system provides a selection of five different background analog colors that can be added when playing the monochrome Neo Geo Pocket games. Neo Geo Pocket Color game titles are also compatible on the monochrome Neo Geo Pocket system; however, they can be played only in 8 shades of gray.
On June 13, 2000, SNK announced it was closing its offices in the U.S. and Europe, effectively killing the Neo Geo Pocket Color in all countries except Japan. Before its premature death, the system was home to several notable releases, including Sonic the Hedgehog: Pocket Adventure, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, Metal Slug: 1st Mission, SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters' Clash and Bust-A-Move Pocket. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide